Ladakh: BJP Expels Veteran Muslim Leader Because His Son Eloped With a Buddhist Woman

Sheikh Nazir Ahmad has claimed that the action against him may have been because elections are near, and questioned why he was being punished for the actions of his son.

Srinagar: The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) in Ladakh has expelled a 74-year-old Muslim leader from the party after his son eloped with a Buddhist woman.

In an official handout issued on August 16, the BJP’s Ladakh unit said that Sheikh Nazir Ahmad has been expelled from primary membership of the party and relieved of his responsibilities as the state vice-president.

The party said the action was taken against him for his alleged involvement in his son’s elopement.

“A meeting, chaired by the state president and attended by the executive members, was convened. Given ample time Sh. Nazir Ahmed, state vice president of BJP Ladakh, was provided an opportunity to clarify his involvement in a sensitive issue of the elopement of a Buddhist girl by his son, Manzoor Ahmed,” reads the communique.

The BJP said the incident is deemed unacceptable by all religious communities in Ladakh, as “it jeopardises communal harmony and unity among the people of this region”. “As a result, a decision has been reached to promptly relieve Sh. Nazir Ahmed of his responsibilities as state vice -president and revoke his primary membership within the BJP with immediate effect,” the party said.

The BJP also wanted this action broadcast widely. The official handout about the expulsion is addressed to All India Radio/ Doordarshan Leh “for telecast in local news bulletin”, apart from top leaders including Tarun Chugh (national general secretary), Ashok Koul (general secretary, J&K & Ladakh) and Jamyang Namgyal (MP Ladakh).

Talking to The Wire over phone, Sheikh Nazir Ahmed said he has no role in the incident and there is no truth in the party’s claims. “This is a baseless allegation. We are ourselves worried as we were planning to fix his nuptial knot with the daughter of my sister-in-law. My wife fainted 2-3 times after he ran away from home,” Ahmed said.

“I have been punished for a wrong committed by my son. What is my fault? When the children go against the wishes of their parents, do they tell their parents? They should have removed me for the post but not expelled me.”

He said the BJP leadership in Ladakh had asked him to trace his son. “I told them that I am trying my best to find him but they told me to resign. I refused to resign and told them, ‘I am one of the founding members of BJP in Ladakh.’ Those who expelled me are juniors to me in the party,” he said.

Ahmed said they may have taken action against him as elections are near.

He said that he was on Hajj pilgrimage when his son eloped with the woman. “I was in Saudi Arabia when they ran away. I came to know about the incident when I returned from the Hajj pilgrimage,” he said.

Old association with the BJP

Ahmed said he has more than a decade-old association with the BJP in Ladakh. “I am associated with the BJP right from 2010, when Rajnath Singh came here to announce the merger of the Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF) with BJP,” he said.

In 2002, different political, religious and social groups in Ladakh came together under the banner of the LUTF to seek UT status for the region. This led to an uncontested victory for two LUTF candidates in Leh district.

Ahmed said that he has worked hard to make the BJP a force to reckon with in Ladakh and ensured its victory in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council-Leh elections.

“I ensured the party’s victory in the Turtuk and Hunder seats,” he said.

Ahmed said he was rewarded by the party last year as he was appointed as member of the UT’s Hajj committee. In November 2022, then Ladakh LG R.K. Mathur had appointed Ahmed as member of the committee.

Ahmed is also associated with the RSS-linked Muslim Rashtriya Manch headed by Indresh Kumar.

BJP defends action

The BJP, however, has stood by its controversial decision. Talking to The Wire, BJP’s Ladakh unit president Phunchok Stanzin said that they have taken action against Ahmed to maintain communal harmony in Ladakh.

He said there is no electoral motive behind the action against Ahmed.

BJP’s general secretary (organisation) for the J&K and Ladakh unit Ashok Koul said that this is a “love jihad-like case”. ‘Love jihad’ is a bogey often used by the Hindu right-wing to target Muslim men and harass interfaith couples.

“We had asked him to trace the woman and return her to her family, but he did nothing,” Koul said.